Hire Smart for Home Remodeling

When you decide to make the investment in a home improvement project, you’re likely entrusting a professional contractor to bring your vision to life on time and on budget.

Remodeling contractors are diverse, so it’s important to take your time, ask lots of questions and do your research before selecting the right one for the job. Keep in mind these considerations from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry:

Choose local. A local home improvement contractor with an established business in your area is likely connected to your community and has a vested interest in doing a job well. Referrals are an important source of business for local companies, so local remodelers are typically compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers in order for their businesses to survive.

Discuss experience. While a skilled remodeler may be willing to take on something new, chances are you’ll be best served by working with someone who has experience with your specific project. A learning curve can be expensive, and the results aren’t always exactly as you hope. Talk about similar projects the contractor has completed in the past and how that work compares to what you’re planning. Also be sure to ask what, if any, outside certifications a contractor may have earned that are pertinent to the project.

Understand staffing. Be sure you’re clear about who will be in your home completing the work, whether it’s the person you meet to discuss a bid or an assigned team. Ask who the project supervisor will be, and if any work is to be subcontracted, who is ultimately responsible for those tasks.

Check references. A reputable contractor should be able to produce a list of past customers who can attest to the remodeler’s workmanship and service. You can contact the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to check for complaints on record for the contractor. Also ask if the remodeler is a member of any trade groups or associations.

Verify licensing. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed, bonded or both. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Ask the remodeling contractor for current copies of applicable licenses.

Confirm insurance. Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor’s certification of insurance or the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.

Compare bids. There are a number of different factors that go into pricing a remodeling project. Be sure that every estimate reflects the same scope of work. If the estimates don’t fully spell out what work is going to be done, go back to the contractor for clarification in writing.

Six inexpensive ways to prep an older home for sale

Some home buyers are wary of older homes because they think they will require too much work or that everything will be outdated.

Homeowners who want to sell an older residence may worry that they need to spend thousands on improvements to catch the eyes of buyers. But with competition for homes heated in many markets, sellers may find they can make some minor improvements to attract a buyer.

“Older homes have character and often provide more square footage for a lower price than comparable new construction houses, but they also face the stigma of impending repairs,” Matt Lavinder, CEO of New Again Houses in Charlottesville, said in an email. “When it comes time to sell your current home, there are a few simple things that homeowners can do to help maximize the sales price of the property.”

Lavinder suggests these key improvements to help a prospective buyer focus on the upside of your home.

On the exterior of the home, Lavinder recommends:

1. Power wash your driveways, deck, siding and other surfaces. Be careful with siding in particular to avoid damage to your specific exterior product, but in general a thorough washing will clear years off the exterior and provide a much-needed facelift.

2. Paint the front door and change the shutters. Pick a complementary color for the door, and it will help “pop” when someone drives up. Shutters are a relatively minimal expense but can modernize the feel of the house.

3. Improve your landscape. We cannot overstate this one. Curb appeal is everything for the first impression. Mow the yard, rake the leaves, trim the hedges and put some fresh mulch down.

On the interior of the home, Lavinder recommends:

4. Pay for professional staging. We have sold hundreds of remodeled houses, and I can tell you from firsthand experience what a difference a high-quality staging will make. We focus on the living room, kitchen and dining areas. Most cities have a few local companies that will stage a property for a nominal fee. Ask your agent or brokerage for suggestions.

5. Get a professional home inspection done before listing your home for sale. Many market contracts in our area fall apart because of the results of a buyer’s home inspection. First-time home buyers can be especially nervous. Getting a home inspection completed before listing is a little bit like taking your final exam in advance of the actual test day. It gives you the opportunity to fix any particularly troublesome issues or make simple repairs so buyers can focus on the positives your home has to offer.

6. Paint. What surface cannot be improved with a little paint? Touching up the trim and putting a fresh coat on the walls brightens up the rooms. Stick with neutral contemporary colors, and let the future homeowners personalize the living spaces as they see fit over time.

“When you’ve completed this you may decide to just move back in,” Lavinder said. “If not, you’ll at least know you gave yourself the best chance of attracting motivated buyers when your home hits the market.”

Home Renovations to Consider Before Your Mom or Dad Moves In

Multigenerational housing—or households with two or more adult generations—is on the rise, and it’s not difficult to see why. According to data from the Pew Research Center, a whopping 64 million Americans live with their extended family, a number that continues to grow as the pandemic rages on and the economy remains in limbo.

Fortunately, there’s an array of home renovations that you can make to accommodate this type of living arrangement. “Whether it’s under the same roof or on the same property, renovations create more flexibility in multigenerational homes,” explains Jean Brownhill, the founder and CEO of Sweeten, an online platform that matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors. “They offer both accessibility and a way for families to live together while maintaining separate living spaces.” Curious about which renovations will provide the greatest benefits to you and your loved ones? From building an accessory dwelling unit in your backyard to renovatig a garage or basement, Brownhill shares her recommendations ahead.

Turn your two-story house into a two-family home.

If you live in a bi-level, Brownhill says converting it into a two-family home is a great way to accommodate loved ones, particularly your mother or father. “Renovating the ground level floor into an apartment, with its own entrance, kitchenette, and bathroom, allows extended family members, especially older ones, to have stair-free access to their own space,” she explains. “The rest of the family can occupy the top level of the house.”

Construct an ADU on your property.

Similar to guest and carriage houses, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are small, self-contained units on lots with single-family homes; they can be built from scratch, notes Brownhill. “ADUs typically measure between 600 to 1,000 square feet, depending on your local regulations, with a small kitchen and bathroom,” she explains. “They’re a good option for homeowners who have extra outdoor space on their property.”

Convert the garage into an apartment.

Your garage has maximum potential as a permanent living space. “For a garage conversion, the existing condition of the space will be a big factor in terms of time and cost, but well-worth the extra living space added to the property,” Brownhill explains. “The walls will need to be fully insulated, plumbing and electrical will need to be installed, and of course, a kitchen and bathroom should be added.”

Transform your basement into an in-home studio.

According to Brownhill, renovating a basement into a livable area will benefit both you and your loved one. “Along with gaining a lot of extra square footage for family members, investing in a basement renovation can add value to a property,” she explains. “To transform it into a comfortable living space, details such as current ceiling height, local egress regulations, and insulation will need to be considered.”

Consider your loved one’s needs before you renovate.

Along with carving out a designated living space for your mother or father, Brownhill says it’s crucial to take into account his or her needs, whatever they may be. “In the bathroom, showers that have grab bars, but no curb can provide flexibility for those who have limited mobility,” she explains. “Pull-down shelves (instead of traditional wall cabinets) and pull-out drawers for base cabinets allow for easier access to items in the kitchen.”

Popular 2021 home upgrades — and how to pay for them

Staying at home during the pandemic has changed the way homeowners renovate, but not always in ways you might expect.

You could assume, for example, that homeowners are desperate for privacy and therefore adding more walls.

But interior designer Max Humphrey says rumors of the open floor plan’s death, which bubble up every year, are exaggerated.

“I think middle America still loves their open floor plans,” says Humphrey, who is based in Portland, Oregon. “Designers are talking about how open floor plans are over, but believe me, they’re not.”

Instead, homeowners are creating spaces they’d want to visit if they didn’t live there. Home kitchens have replaced restaurants, and your favorite outdoor bar is now your patio.

Many homeowners paid for their upgrades with savings last year, according to NerdWallet’s 2020 Home Improvement Report. Indeed, if the economic impact of the pandemic hasn’t hit your own finances, cash is the cheapest way to cover home renovations.

But there are also affordable financing options, including cash-out refinancing and personal loans, for those who don’t have or want to use savings.

Here are projects interior designers expect to see more of as the pandemic stretches into 2021, plus financing options to make them a reality.

Whole house renovations
Stephanie Sullivan is busier now than at any time since she became a full-time interior designer in 2014.

Her clients are seeing again the things in their homes they wanted to change when they bought the house but stayed busy enough over the years to ignore.

“It’s amazing how we don’t notice stuff until we’re stuck at home going, ‘hmm, really,’” she says. “So they’ve been walking past it for years, and now everybody’s home and they’re going, ‘Wait, I can’t do this.’”

A homeowner asking her to redesign the entire house is common these days, says Sullivan, who is based in Austin, Texas.

She says multiple clients in the last year have said, “I just need you to start at the front door.”

Fully remodeling most or all of the rooms in your house is likely an expensive endeavor.

If your project is $50,000 or more, certified financial planner Sarah Ponder recommends a cash-out refinance, which involves replacing your existing mortgage with a larger one and using the extra money to renovate.

Cash-out refinance is a good option only if you have enough home equity to match the project cost and if you get a low interest rate — a real possibility given today’s low mortgage rates, says Ponder, whose company, Real Estate Wealth Planning, is based near Austin.

It’ll take patience, too. The refinance process used to take about a month, Ponder says, but lately, it can take two or three months.

Room conversions
Another common request Sullivan says she receives from homeowners: Turn a master bathroom into an at-home spa.

“Since they can’t go to the spa, they’re creating spa retreats in their bathrooms,” she says.

They’re redoing their kitchens as places to connect with family, she says, but they also want their own getaway, even if it’s just upstairs.

Homeowners are also transforming basements and spare rooms into home offices and study rooms, or gyms and playrooms, Humphrey says.

He says his clients are looking for ways to sprawl out.

For midsized projects like one- or two-room renovations, refinancing your mortgage may not be worth the time and effort.

San Antonio-based CFP Tess Downing says a personal loan could work for projects around $20,000. These loans don’t use your home as collateral, and qualifying is based on your creditworthiness and finances. Good credit and little existing debt are must-haves to get a low rate.

Consumers who qualified for a personal loan in 2020 with excellent credit (720 or higher FICO) typically were approved for rates between 10.7% and 12.5%, according to NerdWallet marketplace data.

DIY projects
There are also affordable ways to get a fresh look in your home on a budget.

Replacing light fixtures can make a big difference, says Humphrey, and first-timers can get help from YouTube.

“It’s things that you notice every day, you know, that’s the light in your house,” he says. “Even as a renter, I would swap light fixtures.”

Homeowners can also add a roll of stick-on wallpaper, he says, or a fresh coat of paint. Even new towels, lightbulbs and bedsheets can change the look of a room.

Smaller projects you do on your own, like updating your home office or adding some new shelving, can be done on a budget.

If the cost of your project is below $10,000, a zero-interest credit could be a good pick, Ponder says. If you can pay the balance during the card’s promotional period (often 12 to 18 months) you’ll finish your project interest-free.

More traditional credit cards and store rewards cards can also help you cover purchases on these projects, especially if you have a card with a hardware or furniture store. Be sure you can pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest.

Resale considerations
It’s probably not worth your time and money to go all-out renovating a home you’re going to sell in a couple of years because you won’t make that money back, Humphrey says.

He cautions his clients against overpersonalizing a home they don’t plan to stay in long-term.

“I don’t love to think about resale when I’m designing for somebody, but the pandemic isn’t going to be forever,” he says. “So I do encourage people to think a little bit about resale.”

But for as long as home remains a restaurant, spa, gym, school and office, go ahead and make some changes you can afford just because they make you happy.

Should I Renovate Before or After Moving In To Our New Home?

You and your family are getting ready to move into your new home. You know there are some changes, major changes, you want to make to the new home before you completely settle in. So the question is: Should you complete renovations before you move in or after you move in?

Benefits of Living On-Site

There are some considerations to moving in before or while renovations take place including cost concerns, travel, and keeping everything together in one spot. Living in your new home gives you the added benefit of knowing your home before you make changes. When living in a home for a bit before beginning work, you can find what does and doesn’t work for your family. This can help you fine-tune exactly what you want to change and fix in your home before work ever begins.

Cost savings is a huge factor in living at home where renovations are taking place. Some choose to live in their old home, carrying two mortgages while work is taking place in the new home. Others will choose to live in a Bed and Breakfast, a hotel, or short term rental until work has been completed. If renovations will take a while, this cost can quickly add up and become a large expense.

Travel time is another item to consider. You are there on-site every day to see track progress of work being completed and there isn’t any need to take time to drop by to see what is happening. You’ll already be there!

Progress. Some homeowners love to see the progress of changes as they happen. They can see the small changes that happen each and every day as work is completed.

The location of your belongings can make a difference. Rather than trying to figure out if the item you are looking for is boxed up in storage or back in the hotel room, you know all of your belongings are already at your new house.

Benefits of Living Off-Site

Perhaps, living away from the renovations might be to your benefit. Living in a construction zone can be stressful and if you have kids or pets, then there is even more to be concerned about. Living in another location can definitely have its benefits.

Reduce stress. Living at home during renovations can be stressful. There will be noise, construction, and continuous disruption in the house and not just in the areas where work is taking place. Living elsewhere gives you a chance to break away from the noise and chaos of a construction site. You’ll get some peace and quiet and a chance to breathe when living elsewhere.

Health of Kids and Pets is a concern when deciding to live elsewhere. The noise and inconvenience of living in a construction zone and the disruption they cause in daily routine may cause anxiety, sleep disturbances, and make even the most normal day feel more challenging. Kids and pets are also curious. Keeping an eye on them to ensure they don’t go into areas that are closed off or dangerous can add a little more stress in your day to day living.

Restrictions may be put in place during a renovation. Some areas of the house may be set as off-limits during construction work. Losing access to crucial rooms like the bathroom or kitchen can certainly make living in construction a lot harder.

Scheduling is a lot easier when you live off-site during renovations on your home. Your remodeling company can complete work quicker and more efficiently when there is no need to work around belongings or the homeowners.

In the end, whatever decision you make that will work best for you we are here to help. Give Brett King a call for free consultation at – 215-536-1145